There are events in our lives that stand out like no others. Most of us in my generation know where we were and what we were doing on Nov. 22, 1963 when we learned that John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
In the hours and days that followed, we lived the tragedy through media coverage of an almost unreal series of events culiminating with his funeral. It consumed our lives and we saved the newspapers and magazines with their black borders and bulletin-sized headlines. Later we bought commemorative items like glassware salt and pepper shakers that we dutifully packed and unpacked whenever we moved.
More recently, high profile estate sales brought us closer to the personal side of JFK when the combs he used, the sunglasses he wore, and even his underwear went up for auction. Prices reached astronomical levels.
But what about the value of everyday JFK items we’ve lived with all these years? Did their values rise as well? Yes and no. Let’s review the JFK collectible market and see why that is.
PERSONAL VALUE: Like any collectible of a significant national event such as the JFK assassination, items directly associated with the person have a higher collector value. If JFK touched it, owned it, gave it away, signed it, displayed it, wore it, bought it, loved it, cared for it, sat in it or visited it, that item is a first-level of collectible and commands a higher value. This is true of any historical figure from George Washington to George W. Bush.
ASSOCIATION VALUE: Items related to his political years of Congress, Senate and White House would have a relatively high level of value based on its proximity to JFK. The sign on the door of his office or on his desk, campaign signs, bumper stickers, schedules and business cards would bring values about half of those associated with items that held personal value.
EVENT VALUE: The newspapers, magazines, the funeral items and any item associated only with the assassination itself, but not a personal link or an-association with JFK, have a third level of value. These are more common items, but limited within a brief time frame.
COMMEMORATIVE VALUE: Glassware, photos, books, jewelry, plates, buttons, posters, recordings, movies, salt and pepper shakers, videos and other items were mass produced and sold to gift outlets well after JFK’s death to keep his memory alive. These commemoratives are quite plentiful and are not considered scarce or even limited. Their value continues to be the lowest in the collectible JFK market.
There are exceptions. For example, a set of keys to his Dallas limousine came to my attention some time ago. However, the keys couldn’t be verified as authentic and so the value dropped to about $10. Who knows how much they could have been worth? The keys would have had an event value, but an unusual one, so its value could be more significant than a normal event item.
Naturally, condition plays an important role, too. A personal item, such as a book in very poor condition, still would command a higher value because of its personal connection, but not as high as it could have been.
It may seem odd or a bit unseemly to consider JFK in the context of collectibles. After all, many of us remember his life and his tragic assassination with deep emotion. You might well have carried some of that attachment to your special JFK items nearly 45 years after his death. But like stocks, bonds, and real estate, our collectibles eventually need to be evaluated as to their investment value, too.
If you know where your item fits within the JFK collectible world, the better you’ll understand its value and the value of your collection overall.